In March 13, 1849, six women and five men, lay people, along with Father Francis Anthony Keppeler and his assistant, Father Mathias Steiger, of the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, Ettenbeuren, Bavaria, set sail for America with eleven Third Order Secular Franciscans, to assist Bishop J.
Martin Henni in the newly organized diocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Arriving at the diocese on May 18, 1849, the six women in the group, with Mother Aemiliana Dirr as their leader, committed themselves to founding a religious community to spread the gospel among German immigrants, especially through educating children, caring for the disadvantaged, and, when possible, establishing perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In 1855 the sisters assumed care and education of orphaned boys at St. Aemilian’s Orphanage for Boys, built by the Milwaukee diocese. Diverted from education to household duties at the newly built diocesan St. Francis Seminary in 1856; and overwhelmed with physical labor, and finding themselves unable to develop a truly religious life, in 1860 the founders left the community.
In 1864 the sisters and their newly elected leader, Mother Antonia Herb, established the motherhouse at St. Coletta Convent in Jefferson, Wisconsin. In 1871 the motherhouse was relocated to St.
Rose of Viterbo Convent in La Cross at the request of Bishop Michael Heiss of La Crosse. The Maria Angelorum Chapel is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1873, Mother Antonia, believing that Seminary work was not an appropriate ministry for her sisters, asked the sisters in Milwaukee to discontinue that work. Thirty-seven sisters chose to remain in Seminary ministry. They became the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The community in LaCrosse became known as the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist were formed as a separate congregation on December 2, 1973, as a result of a period of renewal leading to a divergence of vision within the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is an active religious congregation. It is an active order because they have a direct interaction with the world than being secluded inside. In addition to prayer, they also devote themselves to the fine arts and have designed a theater program for elementary school children who were not privileged to have an art teacher. The sisters have also constructed a Fine Arts Center on their campus and it welcomes many performers each year.
The Franciscan Sisters also advocate for many things such as Homelessness, Human Trafficking, and Immigration. Their primary Charism is to be a committed loving presence through prayer, witness and service. They commit themselves to building Christ’s Kingdom of justice and peace. They continue to preserve God’s creation to increase social and global consciousness to educate others in political awareness and to encourage others to take action to change effect when necessary.
I believe The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration do follow the three Evangelical Counsels of Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty. They live this out by being sisters and not having any type of romantic relationship with others because they have given themselves to God. They live in obedience because they follow the Lord’s teachings and help others understand and follow the word of the Lord. They live in poverty because they do not worry about material things and focus more on helping those around them. This religious congregation is best known for being linked with their teaching apostolate at St. Jude School and Bishop Baumgartner Junior High School in Sinajana, and their health care work at the Catholic Medical Center in Hagåtña and Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning. The legacy of the Franciscan Sisters can be found not only in their educating thousands of students and in their work in health care.
The sisters are also known for serving their community as nurses, lab technicians, volunteers, and so much more. One thing that surprised me about this religious congregation is how involved they are with children and their education. I always had an idea that nuns usually focused in working in the church they belonged to and helped in hospitals. I never really imagined sisters being heavily involved in teaching children music, theater and even being nurses.
I am glad I have read about the Franciscan sisters because I now have more of an idea of the amount of work and dedication sisters truly have in helping their community and its youth.